Villages across China's coal heartlands are sinking underfoot thanks to decades of over-mining which will now cost billions of yuan to fix. Natalie Thomas reports.
Deep in China's coal heartland this village is sinking. The cracking and crumbling walls are the result of decades of mining that has left huge cavities in the ground beneath. The Wang family say in recent years more and more cracks have been appearing in their home. They no longer feel safe at home, they'd move out if they could. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) HELIN RESIDENT, WANG JUNQI, SAYING: "These cracks opening up in places like ours are completely related to the digging of coal in the mines underground. Because of this situation and the fact that they've taken everything out, this place is basically completely unliveable." Across China's coal belt, sinking villages are being abandoned. There's a massive relocation programme estimated to run into the billions of dollars. Environment campaigners like Greenpeace say it's affecting millions of lives. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) DEPUTY PROGRAMME DIRECTOR AT GREENPEACE BEIJING, LI YAN, SAYING: "In 2015 the local government estimated that the people affected by the coal-driven land subsidence was 2.3 million, but the amount of people that need to move will be higher than that." A downturn in the price of coal has hit these regions hard. The question facing the government now is where to find the money. In the meantime, many residents say they go to sleep at night worrying whether they will wake up. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) VILLAGER, ZHANG CUNGOU, SAYING: "I'm mainly just worried that the house is going to collapse and bury me inside. This is my greatest fear." This man, like so many, is hoping he'll be picked to move to a city where the ground underfoot is solid